Monday, December 22, 2014

The Thinner Blue Line

There is a tipping point where the police, tasked with maintaining civil order, loses the trust of the people that pay their salaries.  On the wrong side of that tipping point civil order decays and policemen like Lt. Furseth, NYPD, stop caring.

It may not be easy to point out any single cause, but most of us will agree that the list includes a lot more than traffic tickets for overdue auto tags or for jaywalking.  Certainly, the over-representation of drug crimes in our prisons is beyond dispute.  The ability to confiscate and profit by the confiscation of property and cash in crimes, even presumed crimes, is notorious.  The hiring of 100,000 police in the last war on crime led to the hiring of many ex-military types who have not adopted an attitude of public service.  Training that uses targets of mothers holding children and assumes that force is required to control every confrontation is a problem.  Turning Farm Bureau and EPA field people into LEO's is a problem.  Using MRAPS to serve warrants is a problem.   Using cops as tax collectors for single cigarettes is a problem.  Once the police are no longer members of the community but a uniformed and menacing presence,  trust is lost.

Did cops lose the trust of the community?

Ignorant politicians do not hesitate to use police to enforce egregious and unpopular laws.  But the Lone Ranger only has so many silver bullets.  

It only takes a few incidents to ruin the law enforcement culture of mutual understanding.  It doesn't require corrupt cops.  A policeman who swaggers down the road with a chip on his shoulder to confront a guy who just had an argument with his wife is an explosive situation, and pouring gunpowder on it, from either side, is dangerous.  It is exactly that kind of discretion, that kind of situation, that shows the difference between a police professional and a military cop in the wrong uniform.

It's tough enough being a cop when he or she gets support and respect from the people on the street.  It's impossible when they do not. 

We need more Lt. Furseths who care, and when we get them, everyone will care.

We need to get rid of the few bad cops and the many more bad politicians.